Archive for March, 2010

The Scoop

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

Although Matt Garza’s ERA and WHIP both increased last year compared to 2008, he became a whole lot more interesting since his K rate jumped from 6.24/9 to 8.38/9. His control regressed some last year, but that just means a potential ace can be had cheaper at draft tables. Garza has the unenviable task of playing in the AL East, and he’s a flyball pitcher, but if Desmond Jennings eventually joins Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton in the outfield, the defense should be outstanding. After June ended last season, Garza struck out 101 batters over the final 98.2 innings. He looks like a borderline top-20 fantasy starter.

I really like targeting Brett Gardner. He appears to be locked in as the Yankees’ starting left fielder, and hitting ninth in that lineup is like batting fifth or sixth in most others. He swiped 26 bags over just 248 at-bats last season (and has a career success rate of 87% in the majors), so why can’t he steal 50 this year? He posted a .345 OBP last year, and at age 26 and with just 375 ABs at the major league level, further growth should be expected (he had a .389 OBP throughout his career in the minors). He’s not some great real life asset, but if any team can put up with a hitter who lacks power like Gardner, it’s the Yankees. Plus, he’s a fantastic defender – a Gold Glove caliber center fielder being used in left field. He’s struggled some this spring (.217 BA), but with a 4:6 K:BB ratio, it’s of little concern. Marcus Thames, meanwhile, is batting .209 with a 17:2 K:BB ratio, and Randy Winn is hitting .229 and looks like a clearly inferior option at this stage of his career. In fact, since Curtis Granderson hit .183/.245/.239 while Winn hit an even more disgusting .158/.184/.200 against southpaws last year, any platoon might actually favor Gardner, who batted .291/.381/.400 against lefties last season, as the Yankees’ best team in this case would feature Gardner and his superior glove sliding to center and staying in the lineup. Let others take Rajai Davis and Juan Pierre much earlier and grab Gardner later on. Carlos Gomez, who is also a terrific defender and should be given a chance at an everyday job in Milwaukee, is another one who fits here. His 11 steals during spring lead major league baseball.

While this would have been better advice two weeks ago, I still think Jose Reyes presents an opportunity to get a top-five type player at a third round cost right now. It sure sounds like he’ll be ready by the season opener (or close to it), and while missing time in spring could prove more costly to him than it would most others since Reyes missed so much of last season, the most important aspect is that his hamstrings appear to be back to 100 percent. Remember, there was a strong argument for Reyes being the No. 1 overall player on drafts boards entering last year, and what really has changed? He was injury-prone back in the day, but he also averaged 158.25 games over a four-year span before last season. He also averaged 64.5 steals over that timeframe, and trust me, he’s not going to suddenly stop running at age 26. There’s no way Reyes is getting past me in the third round.

I know most industry folks and the like avoid pitching in the early rounds, but few things would make me happier in life than finding Roy Halladay fall into my lap toward the middle of the second round. I won’t rehash the obvious point of how switching from the AL to the NL will have its benefits, but when you combine that with a strong Phillies’ offense and infield defense, this is quite the setup for a pitcher who has led all of baseball in K:BB ratio each of the past two seasons despite facing the second and third toughest schedule, respectively. I’m a Giants fan and Tim Lincecum is my favorite player in the league, but on my SP cheat sheet, Halladay is ranked No. 1.

I’ve been driving the Brandon League hype train all spring (and there seems to be plenty of room available), so it warms my cockles to see David Aardsma with a 2:6 K:BB ratio over 6.1 innings this spring. Sure, he has dealt with a groin injury, it’s an extremely small sample and the whole spring training should be taken with a giant grain of salt issue applies, but League is the superior pitcher, and I fully expect him to be closing in Seattle for at least half the season.

Unless it’s Stephen Strasburg, I’ve really tried to tone expectations for young pitchers over the past few years, but Brian Matusz has grabbed my attention. He’s obviously no secret, and pitching in the AL East (while not playing for one of the big three) is rough, but there’s no denying the talent here. Matusz has a 19:3 K:BB ratio over 20.1 innings this spring, and he held his own during his major league debut last year, fanning 38 batters over 44.2 innings. The former top-five pick will surely undergo some growing pains, but he also looks fully capable of helping even in mixed leagues during his rookie campaign.

Ryan Ludwick has ended up on zero of my teams so far this year, and I’m immediately regretting that decision. He was a late bloomer, but he’s also still in his prime at age 31 and is just one season removed from a .299-37-104-113-4 campaign. Even when he fell back to earth last year (and in a big way), he hit 22 homers with 97 RBI. His true skill set is almost certainly somewhere in between those two seasons, but if last year was his floor because of his situation in the Cardinals’ lineup, well that’s a pretty good starting point. One could argue the high RBI total was inflated since he hit nearly 90 points higher with RISP (.323 vs. .236) compared to the bases empty, but again, his spot in St. Louis’ lineup gives plenty of room for error. I.E., he doesn’t have to be a great real life player to be quite the fantasy asset, and it’s not like he’s too costly either. Also, remember with Rick Ankiel in the fold, he was getting benched frequently in the beginning of last year, so Ludwick put up those numbers (when he somewhat struggled) in just 139 games played (486 ABs). He’s a fine target in 2010.

Jeff Francoeur, meanwhile, seems to be ending up on the majority of my teams, which is somewhat ironic, since I was highly critical of him entering last year, failing to believe in the spring training stories about him changing his approach at the plate. He’s not in nearly the ideal situation Ludwick is, but similarly, he can hold fantasy value even if he’s not a good player for the Mets. Frenchy is still just 26 years old, and while his inability to walk kills his OBP, his career BA is a respectable .271, and all those plate appearances lead to more RBI opportunities. Maybe 18-20 homers is his power upside, but the Mets are supposedly encouraging him to run more this year (of course, this could mean nothing come the regular season, and we are talking about 5-10 steals anyway). No one seems to want him, making Francoeur a fine 5th or 6th outfielder typically available late (he’s averaged 84 RBI over the past three seasons).

When it comes to position players, most fantasy leagues see guys go in typical order (of course, there are minor differences), but when it comes to pitching (and outfield to an extent), the variance can really differ, which is partly why they make the most sense to wait on. It happens less with the top outfielders and starters, but I have definitely seen plenty of discrepancy when it comes to closers, at least after the big three are off the board. My point? I seem to like Brian Wilson and Billy Wagner a lot more than most of the people I’ve drafted against this year. I guess Joakim Soria should be treated as the No. 4 closer, but there sure aren’t any other options I’d want before Wilson or Wagner, and they are often available after many others are selected. Wilson should give up more homers this year, but his fastball averaged 96.6 mph last year, when he fanned 38 batters over 33.0 innings and produced a 1.64 ERA and 1.15 WHIP after the All-Star break. Wagner, who has a career 2.39 ERA and 1.01 WHIP, struck out 22 batters over 13.2 innings while pitching in the AL East last season. He’s now further removed from surgery and in the easier league, so even at age 38 (hardly one foot in the grave), he can be an elite closer in 2010. Huston Street, on the other hand, terrifies me. I wouldn’t touch him with a 10-foot pole.

Ricky Nolasco is being treated like 2009 never happened (at least when it comes to ERA) at draft tables this year, and rightfully so. I’m not saying he’s some secret – far from it – but realize this guy has posted a remarkable 21:1 K:BB ratio this spring. I do worry about his propensity to give up homers, but it’s worth noting his xFIP last year was 3.29 – the fifth best in all of baseball. I took Josh Johnson over him in my home league recently, and I’m pretty sure I’ll end up regretting it (with Florida’s terrible infield defense being a major factor). It wouldn’t be a stretch to consider Nolasco a top-10 fantasy starter.

If you’re in a deeper league with enough bench spots, Desmond Jennings is hands down my favorite late round pick. Injuries this spring have been unfortunate, but they have also kept his price tag way down, since he’s so obviously ticketed to Triple-A. Sure, most rookies struggle (the Ryan Braun types being more the exception, not the rule), but Jennings looks pretty close to ready, with strong BB skills, ridiculous SB potential and even decent power – he’s the total package. Even if no injuries occur, and the Rays stay in contention and don’t trade Carl Crawford midseason, why is Jennings still considered blocked? Their DH situation right now is Pat Burrell and Hank Blalock. Matt Joyce and Gabe Kapler in right field? Seems like a pretty clear path to me. You may have to wait until June, but Jennings is the type of midseason addition who could win your league for you.

National League West Preview

Monday, March 29th, 2010

1. Colorado Rockies

The Rockies have flaws, but they look like the class of a division filled with mediocrity. Ubaldo Jimenez is a dominant ace. Jorge De La Rosa isn’t far from being a strong No. 2, and while Aaron Cook and Jason Hammel don’t make great fantasy options, both induce so many groundballs, they are plenty effective real life assets. The loss of Jason Marquis’ career-year from last season will hurt, but the return of a healthy Jeff Francis should negate that somewhat. The bullpen is definitely unsettled and a bit of a concern, and there isn’t a true superstar in the lineup, but there also isn’t a real glaring weakness with Colorado. Seth Smith is probably the best fourth outfielder in all of baseball, and guys like Chris Iannetta, Ian Stewart, Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzales are only going to improve. Troy Tulowitzki is the team’s best position player, and because of his extreme defensive deficiencies (plus good depth in the outfield), the Rockies should look to trade Brad Hawpe if he gets off to a hot start with the bat. It wouldn’t shock if Colorado won the World Series.

Fearless prediction: Ubaldo Jimenez finishes in the top-three Cy Young vote; Huston Street’s injury proves disastrous, and he ends the year with fewer than five saves; Carlos Gonzales enters 2011 as a top-10 fantasy outfielder on all draft boards.

2. Arizona Diamondbacks

I went to Reno for the first two days of the NCAA tournament this year, which was a pretty cool experience. Aside from betting on the majority of the hoops games, I’m not a big gambler when it comes to the tables, so instead of losing $60 in five minutes playing blackjack, which is what typically happens to me, I decided to put some cash on a futures bet. When looking at the odds to win the 2010 World Series, Arizona jumped out like a sore thumb at 70-1. I mean, the two other teams that were the same odds were the Blue Jays and Astros. For comparison’s sake, the Mets were 10-1, the Giants were 18-1, the Brewers and A’s were 50-1; of course, this isn’t a direct reflection of how the Peppermill viewed each team’s chances of actually winning it – it was also a reflection of where the money was coming in. Anyway, I decided to put down $150 on them (which will pay $10,650), and within five minutes, the odds on the Diamondbacks dropped to 50-1. Made me feel special.

I don’t have Arizona making the playoffs, but I do have them finishing as the fifth best team in the NL and think this team is more dangerous than most give them credit for. Brandon Webb’s slow progress is disconcerting, and it’s looking increasingly unlikely he returns to form, but it’s at least possible, right? And while I disagree with the Max Scherzer trade, Edwin Jackson should be a force in the NL West, and Ian Kennedy’s dominant minor league numbers could lead to a pretty damn good No. 4 starter in the National League. The bullpen should actually be pretty solid despite the lack of star names, and only Mark Reynolds looks to be in store for regression on offense. In fact, there are so many young, talented bats, what happens if all start to live up to their potential at once? Justin Upton is already a true star, while Conor Jackson, Stephen Drew and Kelly Johnson are all due for bounce back campaigns. The Adam LaRoche signing at a discount was smart, and the Miguel Montero/Chris Snyder combo behind the plate is the second-best in the NL. Chris Young has shown great strides at the plate this spring, but even if he continues to struggle with the bat, he’s a better defender in center than his recent UZR suggests, and Gerardo Parra is a fine fallback option. Name one weakness in this team’s lineup.

Fearless prediction: Dan Haren, who has an ERA 2.2 runs higher from August through September compared to April through July over the past three seasons and a WHIP .50 higher over that span as well, will pitch better after the All-Star break in 2010 compared to beforehand. When his owners will inevitably be trying to sell come July, buy him.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers

I’m not overly down on the Dodgers and expect them to be in the NL West hunt throughout, but this is a team with a starting infield that hit a combined 49 homers last year; that’s 9.8 bombs per player for those counting at home. The outfield is obviously pretty strong, especially when Manny Ramirez rebounds from a poor 2009 second half, motivated for his next contract. The bullpen has plenty of power arms, and if Chad Billingsley performs like he’s capable of (last year’s second half was likely a fluke), and Clayton Kershaw continues to progress, the rotation should be a plus as well, with Hiroki Kuroda a fine No. 3 and Vicente Padilla a very good No. 4. Los Angeles could definitely win this division again, but they are far from locks.

Fearless prediction: Matt Kemp goes down as the biggest fantasy bust of 2010.

4. San Francisco Giants

More of the same. The Giants have one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball, but with one of the worst offenses and a defense that looks like possibly one of the weakest in MLB, they aren’t much of a threat. Last year pretty much everything went right with the pitching; Tim Lincecum won his second straight Cy Young. Matt Cain performed far better than his peripherals suggested he should. Barry Zito bounced back quite a bit. Jonathan Sanchez was a beast over the second half. Brian Wilson was a monster. Everyone stayed healthy. While Sanchez could take another step forward, there’s only room to regress here in 2010, and GM Brian Sabean’s decisions to address the poor offense this offseason were laughable. In November I wrote this: “if/when Sabean signs Mark DeRosa this offseason, he’ll need to file a restraining order against me.” I’m pointing that out more to say just how predictable he is, not to draw attention toward the police. Here are Sabean’s priorities when looking at free agents: Over 30? Check. Bad defensively? Check. Coming off a career-year? Check. Will they sign for a multi-year deal? Check. And in some instances, are they currently injured (DeRosa and Freddy Sanchez)? Check. Sabean is to a GM what Radiohead is to music or Larry David is to comedy. Only the opposite. The Giants have a sneaky good farm system right now, but Madison Bumgarner’s drop in velocity has cost me sleep at night. I’ve seen plenty of ESPN people picking this team to win the division, but I’d be shocked if the Giants make the playoffs this year.

Fearless prediction: Jonathan Sanchez has a better fantasy season than Matt Cain.

5. San Diego Padres

Even if San Diego surprises and outperforms expectations, they will take a hit after they decide to trade Heath Bell and Adrian Gonzalez. The whole starting rotation is undervalued in fantasy leagues right now, as is Tony Gwynn Jr., but the Padres look like an obvious choice for last place, especially when you consider their payroll concerns. Keeper leaguers need to target Simon Castro.

Fearless prediction: Mike Adams ends up as a more valuable fantasy commodity than Heath Bell.

American League East Preview

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

1. New York Yankees

When deciding whether Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes should be your No. 5 starter is your biggest spring training worry, you know you have a good team. Of course, everyone knows the Yankees are good, and while I guess there’s a slight worry some of the aging vets regress, this is an embarrassment of riches. Even though Javier Vazquez takes an inevitable step back in fantasy worth, he’ll provide plenty of value for New York. Nick Johnson was a savvy signing, and adding Curtis Granderson won’t hurt either. Nick Swisher appears to be one of the cheaper sources for power in fantasy leagues this year, and as usual, the Yankees enter the season as prohibitive favorites to win the World Series.

Fearless prediction: Robinson Cano has a better fantasy campaign than Chase Utley, but Brett Gardner is the Yankees’ best ROI.

2. Boston Red Sox (wild card)

On a recent podcast, Bill Simmons called Boston’s offseason moves a “gimmick.” Huh? Not to beat a dead horse, but how is preventing runs less important than scoring them? In fact, studies have shown that preventing a run is actually MORE helpful to winning than scoring a run. Anyway, I’m not here to pile on Simmons, there’s enough of that elsewhere, and I continue to read him and listen to his podcasts, so he can’t be that bad. But it was almost painful to listen to him talk baseball with Jonah Keri, as it was a mismatch of epic proportions. Like a hitter facing Stephen Strasburg, CJ Spiller against the Wonderlic or “no” versus Ben Roethlisberger. Anyway, this is the second best team in baseball on paper, and yes, the improvements on defense are a big reason why. Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Clay Buchholz are mitigating factors as well.

Fearless prediction: Jon Lester wins the AL Cy Young award.

3. Tampa Bay Rays

This is the third best team in baseball, but unfortunately, a playoff ticket might not be in the cards since they play in the AL East. This aspect is actually underrated. Think about it. Right now, the 35-35 Toronto Raptors are currently in the NBA playoffs. By 2.5 games too. Life isn’t always fair, but this is baseball, which is more important than ”life.” What a travesty. Evan Longoria is No. 4 on my fantasy board, Pat Burrell should bounce back, and it’s also possible Boss Junior puts it all together. David Price could go nuts as well. And there’s little doubt Jeremy Hellickson isn’t a better pitcher than Jeff Niemann, and the quicker the Rays realize that, the better. Matt Garza, who increased his K rate substantially last year, looks like their ace; go get him in fantasy leagues. Rafael Soriano’s health will be pretty important.

Fearless prediction: Evan Longoria is a top-four fantasy asset, and Matt Garza is a top-20 fantasy starter. Don’t sleep on Garza, who is getting overlooked in most leagues.

4. Baltimore Orioles

Not too much to like here, but they are on the way up. An outfield of Pacman Jones, Nolan Reimold and Nick Markakis is a great start. Plus Matt Wieters looks likely to live up to all that hype soon, so this is a strong foundation. Mike Gonzalez will be an effective closer as long as he’s healthy, but once he inevitably gets hurt, Koji Uehara (deep sleeper alert for fantasy leagues) will be a fine replacement.

Fearless prediction: With Stephen Strasburg, Aroldis Chapman and Jason Heyward, it’s easy to overlook a prospect like Brian Matusz, but don’t be surprised when the he wins AL Rookie of the Year.

5. Toronto Blue Jays

Things don’t look great here, but it’s not quite as dire as it seems. Aaron Hill, Adam Lind and Travis Snider are certainly good building blocks, and there’s also a pretty good pipeline through the farm system: Brett Wallace, Zach Stewart and Kyle Drabek. Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Marc Rzepczynski and Dustin McGowan all possess upside as possible future arms in the rotation as well. But in this division, who cares?  Good luck, Toronto.

Fearless prediction: I don’t have much of a “fearless” prognostication here, but Kevin Gregg (not rightfully) looks like the closer entering the season to me, and he’s been coming dirt cheap in drafts/auctions I’ve been in.

Podcast

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

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American League Central Preview

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

1. Minnesota Twins

The Twins still have a huge hole at third base and the worst outfield defense in baseball, but Orlando Hudson (is it just me, or is the “O-Dog” nickname played out?) and J.J. Hardy were cheap, sneaky additions to the infield. Jim Thome gives them depth if Delmon Young continues to fail to progress, and remember, this team somehow made the playoffs last season despite Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer missing nearly two months combined, losing Kevin Slowey for the year in early July and getting nothing from Francisco Liriano. Mauer is sure to fall back to earth some, but what if Liriano resembles his 2006 form? Scott Baker is very good too, and Slowey is back. Losing Joe Nathan obviously hurts, but it’s a deep rotation, and no other team in MLB has such an advantage of getting that kind of production from the catcher position.

Fearless prediction: Francisco Liriano enters 2011 as a unanimous top-10 fantasy starter.

2. Chicago White Sox

Chicago’s starting rotation is just as good if not better than the Twins, but the lineup is shaky, and if Bobby Jenks doesn’t get healthy soon, the bullpen becomes awfully thin. If Gordon Beckham progresses at a fast rate, Alex Rios bounces back and Carlos Quentin stays healthy, this team will contend for the division title. However, Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones and Mark Teahen are pretty weak regulars, and Alexei Ramirez is a far better fantasy player than real life asset. It’s a good, not great White Sox team.

Fearless prediction: Jake Peavy’s transition to the AL is overblown, and most fantasy owners are more than happy they drafted him. He surpasses 200 Ks with a sub 1.20 WHIP.

3. Detroit Tigers

Just like the White Sox, the Tigers have a strong starting rotation (and their top-three may even have the most upside in the division), but it’s not as deep, and the lineup is also a problem. Justin Verlander threw 3,937 pitches last season, more than 300 more than the next most in MLB, and since he also led the league in “stress” pitches, he enters 2010 as somewhat of an injury risk. Max Scherzer is also no sure thing to stay healthy, although Rick Porcello could really thrive now unleashed, and his K rate is sure to increase as a result. But bottom line, there’s not enough offense here.

Fearless prediction: Miguel Cabrera goes nuts, posting a .330-45-130 type season, although his teammates bring his counting stats down some. He proves more valube in fantasy leagues than Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder and Mark Teixeira.

4. Kansas City Royals

I had a hard time picking who would finish fourth here, but ultimately I sided with KC ending up ahead of Cleveland. Zack Greinke was a big reason why, but Gil Meche’s shoulder trouble isn’t a good sign. As usual, the lineup is bad, as GM Dayton Moore continues to prove he’s one of the very worst in the business. Poor Alex Gordon; I’m still not completely writing him off though. When healthy, Joakim Soria is the fourth-best closer in baseball.

Fearless prediction: Billy Butler has a big year and enters 2011 ahead of Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Kendry Morales and Justin Morneau on fantasy draft boards.

5. Cleveland Indians

Matt LaPorta remains intriguing and Carlos Santana is a fine prospect, but the plan for this Cleveland team is unclear right now. Grady Sizemore should rebound, but why sign Russell Branyan? And what exactly happened to Fausto Carmona? Justin Masterson has some upside, but man has this franchise fallen.

Fearless prediction: Chris Perez takes the closer’s job and runs with it, as Kerry Wood is used strictly as a setup man after he returns from his injury before getting traded. Go ahead and treat Perez as a borderline top-20 fantasy RP right now.

American League West Preview

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

1. Los Angeles Angels

The more I think about it, the more I consider the Angels the prohibitive favorite to win this division. There’s plenty of reason for skepticism: the losses of John Lackey and Vladimir Guerrero; Kendry Morales and Juan Rivera are probably due to regress, and the team’s perennial “luck” has to come to an end at some point, right? Still, the AL West is pretty weak, and L.A. has a deep rotation with some sneaky arms in the bullpen past the shaky closer and setup man. Plus, Howie Kendrick and Brandon Wood could both go nuts, and if not, Maicer Izturis gives them strong infield depth.

Fearless prediction: Ervin Santana finishes 2010 as a top-15 fantasy starter.

2. Texas Rangers

I had a tough time picking who will finish second here, but ultimately I went with the better bats instead of the superior pitching and defense. With too many question marks still on the staff, this is hardly a complete team, but maybe Rich Harden and Colby Lewis provide quality innings, and Neftali Feliz is the ultimate wild card. But the lineup is pretty loaded; imagine if they somehow got relatively healthy campaigns from Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Vladimir Guerrero and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Justin Smoak is waiting in the wings, and Elvis Andrus should provide Gold Glove caliber defense from the shortstop position.

Fearless prediction: Chris Davis hits 40 home runs, while also breaking the MLB record for strikeouts in the process.

3. Seattle Mariners

Hands down, this should be the best defensive team in baseball, and in Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee, they have a front-end rotation that is among the best in MLB. But how are they going to score runs? There isn’t a single player in the lineup who can reasonably be projected to post an OPS of .850, and if the team insists on giving Ken Griffey Jr. regular at-bats at DH, they are really in trouble. I like what GM Jack Zduriencik is doing, but Seattle lacks depth in the starting rotation and simply won’t be able to score enough runs in 2010.

Fearless prediction: Brandon League records 30 saves and usurps David Aardsma as the team’s closer of the present and future.

4. Oakland A’s

If Ben Sheets and Justin Duchscherer somehow both stayed mostly healthy, this rotation has quite a bit of upside, also featuring Brett Anderson, who sure looks like a No. 1 starter. Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez also possess nice potential as well. And Oakland’s defense, especially the outfield, projects to be very strong. But like the Mariners, the A’s will be fielding an offense that lacks punch. Chris Carter, Michael Taylor and Adrian Cardenas are a few intriguing bats in the minor league system, and Oakland has some true power arms in the pen. Henry Rodriguez, for example, had a decent 14.6 K/9 mark in Triple-A last season. Don’t be shocked if they finish ahead of Seattle in 2010, but the Athletics don’t look like true contenders for the division just yet.

Fearless prediction: Gio Gonzalez strikes out more than 200 batters and enters 2011 as the second most desirable A’s fantasy starter.

Podcast

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

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Yahoo! Friends & Family Draft

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

I promise I’ll stop posting personal draft results after this, but I was invited into the Yahoo! F&F league this year, which is one of the bigger industry ones out there. Here are my results: League format is 14 teams with 1C, 4 OF, 2 UTIL and everything else standard. With a 1,2500 max innings cap.

Round Pick Player Position
1 4 Evan Longoria 3B
2 25 Grady Sizemore OF
3 32 Robinson Cano 2B
4 53 Brian McCann 1B
5 60 Jon Lester P
6 81 Elvis Andrus SS
7 88 Cole Hamels P
8 109 Ian Stewart 2B
9 116 Lance Berkman 1B
10 137 Nate McLouth OF
11 144 Billy Wagner P
12 165 David Ortiz 1B
13 172 Juan Pierre OF
14 193 Brad Lidge P
15 200 Colby Rasmus OF
16 221 Gavin Floyd P
17 228 Chris Young OF
18 249 Aaron Harang P
19 256 Hideki Matsui DH
20 277 Chris Young P
21 284 Jeff Francoeur OF
22 305 Mike Adams OF
23 312 Brandon League P
24 333 Ian Kennedy P
25 340 Drew Storen OF

I had a hard time deciding between Evan Longoria or Ryan Braun at No. 4, but I ultimately sided with the shallower position and the guy who is two years younger and hit more home runs last season in 50 fewer at-bats. Remember, before nagging injuries really sapped Longoria’s production in the middle of last year, he ended May with 13 homers, 55 RBI and a slash line of .327/.396/.623.

I’m the only sucker willing to grab a hurt Lance Berkman, but I desperately needed a 1B, and at that point, even if he opens the year on the DL, I couldn’t pass him up. I mean, he’s one season removed from a .312-29-114-106-18 campaign and just turned 34 years old, so I’m not ready to put him in the morgue quite yet.

Not sure taking Brian McCann in a 1-C league there was the right call. I was THIS close to taking Nelson Cruz instead, but I feel like OF can be addressed late. Love Ian Stewart’s power at a MI spot.

We’ll see if my middle relievers strategy works in this format, but I do like the ability to use Chris Young only during his starts at Petco Park since it’s a daily league.

I was left scrambling for a third starter, and in doing so, kind of stumbled upon Gavin Floyd. Since he was so lucky two years ago, winning 17 games with a sub-4.00 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP despite a 145:70 K:BB ratio over 206.1 innings, I’d mostly written him off. Well, the former No. 4 overall pick improved his ability like crazy last season, which was masked a bit by an increased ERA. Throwing harder than ever, Floyd recorded a 71:18 K:BB ratio (with a 3.49 ERA and 1.11 WHIP) after the All-Star break last year. I’m happy no one else seemed to really want him.

The Scoop

Monday, March 15th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

I’m finding Jake Peavy to be a pretty good target this year, as it seems everyone wants nothing to do with the injury-prone pitcher now out of Petco Park.  There’s no doubting he’s in a much tougher situation compared to San Diego, as he not only leaves the best pitcher’s park in baseball for one that routinely plays as one of the most homer-friendly in MLB, but he also switched to the more difficult league (which is exacerbated when leaving the NL West). Still, last year’s injury was to his ankle, and if nothing else, he enters 2010 with as fresh of an arm as ever, and Peavy proved he was feeling good with an 18:6 K:BB ratio over 20.0 innings with the White Sox in September. It’s true his numbers have been aided by Petco Park, but Peavy has a career ERA of 3.26 and a WHIP of 1.18 with a 9.02 K/9. And almost every athlete performs better at home, regardless of sport. Since 2004, Peavy has struck out 25.6 percent of the batters he’s faced (h/t Mark Simon from ESPN). Only Tim Lincecum has been better (27.6 percent). The Indians, Tigers and Royals all finished in the bottom half of the AL in runs scored last season. Take Peavy at a discount.

Watching the “30 for 30” on Reggie Miller, which was fantastic, kind of made me sad, as someone who’s clearly far too young to be talking about “the good ole days,” well, quite frankly, rivalries like that don’t exist anymore in sports. Well, at least they don’t between non-retired athletes (more on that later).

There will be safer picks than Carlos Gonzalez, because we are talking about a hitter who had shown very little as a major leaguer until going on a tear late last season; a tear that consisted of just a 194 AB sample. Of course, it’s not so simple as to prorate that over a full season and take further growth as a given, and Gonzalez strikes out quite a bit, but there’s also plenty to like here. Not only did he go nuts in August (.371/.432/.714), but it was especially encouraging to see him swipe seven bases during September, even when his bat came back to earth (.885 OPS), as he clearly got more comfortable at the major league level. CarGo is a top prospect who surprising held his own against lefties last year (albeit in a small number of at-bats). It’s not ideal that the Rockies have four good outfielders, especially since Jim Tracy is their manager, but no other even approaches Gonzalez’s talent. He’s a plus defender slated to hit toward the top of the lineup, and the Coors Field factor cannot be understated. CarGo is just 24 years old and should approach 25/25 as soon as this season, and he carries less BA risk than fellow future superstar Jay Bruce. Go get him.

I really don’t know what to make of the Andre Agassi/Pete Sampras incident. I mean, it’s definitely funny, and one of the rare times we see athletes showing their true personalities. But it was also a little uncomfortable, no? Although the valet line killed me. We may have finally found someone who might be even cheaper than Tiger Woods, and that’s saying something.

It’s time to start treating Ervin Santana as a top-30 fantasy starter again. Yes, last year was an utter disaster, caused almost solely by him pitching hurt, but no surgery was ever required, and while his K rate remained below his 2008 levels, he showed signs of getting healthier over the final two months (3.09 ERA). The clear problem was his drop in fastball velocity, which fell from averaging 94.4 mph in 2008 down to 92.3 mph last year. His slider remained a highly effective pitch, but the heater was destroyed. So it’s encouraging that he’s been routinely reaching 94 mph this spring, when he’s posted a 5:0 K:BB ratio over five perfect frames. Of course, it’s just five innings, but Santana skipped winter ball in the Dominican Republic for the first time ever, so if he’s back to feeling fully healthy after an offseason of rest, there’s a huge opportunity to buy a pitcher who is one season removed from striking out 214 batters with a 3.49 ERA and 1.12 WHIP at a more than reasonable cost.

In 2004, Barry Bonds had 373 official ABs. He reached base 367 times. That is all.

I believe Miguel Montero is for real and wouldn’t fault anyone for ranking him as a top-five fantasy catcher. However, don’t forget about Chris Snyder. It’s possible Snyder is traded, which would be ideal, but he’s back to health entering 2010 and has quite a bit of pop in his bat. Montero will be on the good side of a platoon, but he actually has hit southpaws better throughout his career. Montero had a .900 OPS after the break last season and hits in a terrific environment, but don’t be shocked if Snyder takes away more at-bats from him compared to some other catchers with more secure full-time jobs who will go later in fantasy drafts.

Drew Magary’s mailbag absolutely destroys Bill Simmons’ these days. It’s not even a contest.

I’m not exactly the first person to suggest Tommy Hanson is going to be good this year, but I’m still not sure he’s being properly valued. Last year’s solid but not great 4.12 xFIP is misleading, because most of his luck occurred during his first month pitching in the bigs, when he somehow went 4-0 with a 2.48 ERA despite an 18:17 K:BB ratio over 29.0 innings. Afterward, he posted a 98:29 K:BB ratio with a 1.11 WHIP over 98.2 innings. Hanson is probably one of the five best pitching prospects of the past decade,  and if he’s not a top-10 fantasy starter entering 2010, he’s just outside it. Right now, Javier Vazquez (crazy) and Chris Carpenter (way too big of an injury risk with far fewer strikeouts) both have a higher ADP, which isn’t right.

Thankfully, I didn’t buy the Manny Pacquiao fight last weekend. Joshua Clottey was clearly only interested in a paycheck, so after Floyd Mayweather disposes Shane Mosley, let’s go ahead and finally try to save the sport and give us the best matchup since the 1990s. I’m not sure where the threshold would be for what I wouldn’t pay to see that fight. I’d probably go to at least $250. Maybe more. Then again, I’d also fly to Vegas to be there in person, so I’m actually willing to go quite higher.

Steals are tough to gauge in fantasy leagues. On one hand, I don’t like paying a premium price for guys like Carl Crawford or Jacoby Ellsbury when you can get Nyjer Morgan, Michael Bourn or Juan Pierre much later, and it does appear there is plenty of “cheap” speed available late this year. Still, you better be sure to get one of these guys, even if they are negative in a couple of categories. Maybe this is anecdotal, but it sure seems to me SB is a category that might be the most coveted in trade talks throughout the year. Maybe it’s because it’s easier to point to the 5-10 players who dominate that stat. Incidentally, I like Morgan more than Bourn in 2010. Bourn carries bigger BA volatility – his BABIP was .291 in 2008 and .367 last season. His career mark (.334) is strong, but his career contact rate (.77) is lower than Morgan’s (.83), so he relies more on the unknown. Of course, Morgan isn’t going to maintain the .400 BABIP he posted after coming to Washington last year, but his career mark is .361, and the Nats traded Lastings Milledge for him, not to mention his defense in center is second only to Franklin Gutierrez, so he should have good job security. Morgan swiped 42 bags over just 469 at-bats last season, so 50-60 are reachable.

So I got the fourth pick in the Yahoo! Friends & Family draft, which takes place Tuesday. Since I’ve constantly said I want a top-three pick or one toward the bottom, it’s only fitting. Any suggestions, assuming the obvious three are gone?

What do we make of Francisco Liriano? He actually profiles quite similarly to Ervin Santana – as a loss in fastball velocity has derailed a once promising career, while his slider remains plenty effective. Of course, it’s a bit different, since Liriano was once the best pitcher in baseball (for a brief period), and he actually underwent TJ surgery. The year before he had the procedure, Liriano averaged 94.7 mph with his heater, but he’s been at 90.9 and 91.7 each of the past two years. His fastball was a barely above average pitch when he was in the 94 mph range, but the drop in velocity has turned his slider into merely a very good pitch instead of the third most effective pitch in all of baseball, which it was in 2006. And no pitcher’s fastball was less effective in all of MLB last season than Liriano’s. But he’s now even further removed from the surgery, and obviously, the main reason I even bring him up is what he’s shown during the offseason. He dominated the Dominican winter league, working regularly in the 95 mph range (if reports are to be believed) and now has a 12:1 K:BB ratio over 7.0 innings in spring training. Liriano will have to pitch in a park with far less foul territory and an outfield defense that could be the worst in baseball in 2010 (and if the Twins even consider moving him into the closer’s role they are crazy), but I like to swing for the fences in fantasy leagues – and there won’t be a player available later than Liriano who has a better chance of winning your league for you.

NL LABR Results

Friday, March 12th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

So here’s my team:

Pos Player Price
C Chris Iannetta 12
C Ryan Doumit 11
1B Bobby Crosby 1
2B Chase Utley 35
3B Chipper Jones 15
SS Orlando Cabrera 14
CI Troy Glaus 13
MI Placido Polanco 16
OF Carlos Gonzalez 24
OF Nyjer Morgan 22
OF Scott Hairston 7
OF Tony Gywnn Jr. 3
OF Aaron Cunningham 1
U Matt Gamel 3
P Johan Santana 22
P Roy Oswalt 15
P Tim Hudson 12
P Stephen Strasburg 9
P Kenshin Kawakami 3
P Brad Lidge 11
P Jason Motte 3
P Drew Storen 4
P Peter Moylan 1
P Pedro Martinez 3
B Andrew Miller R
B Jason Giambi R
B Dan Meyer R
B Jeff Samardzija R
B Simon Castro R
B Jason Michaels R

My immediate reaction is I’m not all that happy with this team, but there’s not necessarily a correlation there (my first year in LABR two years ago I had no idea what I was doing, showed up late to the auction after a late night/morning of drinking and yet finished in 2nd place. Last year I really liked my team yet finished in the middle of the pack and nowhere close to being a contender). Before I dissect my team in greater detail, I want to make it clear just how deep this NL-only, 13-team league is. My team has holes, but this is a league that requires 26 starting catchers (there are only 16 of those in the National League), so realize all teams are going to have some problem areas.

In this type of format, I like to “spread the risk” and don’t think I had ever spent more than $25 on a single player my previous two years, yet I ended up with Chase Utley at $35. At age 31 and an injury risk, he was absolutely not a target of mine, but he came cheaper than Prince Fielder, David Wright and Tim Lincecum, and second base is pretty thin in the NL. Still, I wouldn’t have gone to $37, that’s for sure.

Afterward I felt like spending $30 on Orlando Cabrera and Placido Polanco was a panic move to fill my middle infield. I actually kind of like Polanco hitting second in a potent lineup while playing the less demanding defensive position in the easier league and a better hitter’s park, but that buy looks worse in hindsight, since Dan Uggla went for just $1 more and Rickie Weeks was the same price.

My two main targets entering the auction were Carlos Gonzalez and Nyjer Morgan, but neither came at a discount. In fact, I probably overpaid for both (Michael Bourn came at the same price as Morgan, which may seem bad in the market, but I actually prefer Morgan, who is less volatile in batting average).

I blew it with my first base situation. I was stuck with taking stabs late, and guys I had in mind like Logan Morrison went way higher than I anticipated. And I would have got Mike Jacobs cheap, but I didn’t realize he was only UTIL eligible. Dumb me. No I don’t expect Bobby Crosby to be of much value, but at least I should be able to move Troy Glaus to 1B soon, meaning I need to just come up with a CI, with Crosby, Mat Gamel and Jason Giambi as options.

Who knows how my three SD outfielders fare, but you’ve got to realize there’s a possibility of plenty of ABs here at a total of $11. One of my main strategies was if I came up short on offense, I felt like outfield (and corner infield) is the easiest position to fill through free agency during the season. A fourth outfielder is plenty valuable in this format.

As for my pitching, I don’t even necessarily like Johan Santana. Hopefully last year’s declining strikeout rate can be directly attributed to the bone chips removed during the offseason, and it’s worth noting he doesn’t turn 31 years old until Saturday, and Citi Field played as a pretty good pitcher’s park last season. I was kind of caught price enforcing here, and honestly, I’d prefer Tommy Hanson, Clayton Kershaw and even Cole Hamels to him in 2010, but we are talking about one of the most dominant pitchers of the past decade, and it’s also pretty safe to assume he was pitching with a damaged arm for a while in 2009; he had 86 strikeouts over 66 innings with a 1.77 ERA over the first two months last season. Still, I didn’t necessarily want him, but I thought he’d go for more.

Although they may not be a big help in Ks, I do like Roy Oswalt and Tim Hudson for a combined $27. But I wish I had gone with Ian Kennedy instead of Kenshin Kawakami. I do like going ugly with Brad Lidge. And if one of Drew Storen, Jason Motte, Dan Meyer, Peter Moylan or Jeff Samardzija picked up some saves this season, I wouldn’t be opposed to it. Andrew Miller will almost certainly continue to suck, but in this league, I thought he wasn’t a bad first pick in the reserve rounds. Vote for Pedro!

Ryan Doumit, Chipper Jones, Troy Glaus (and even Utley) are all big injury risks, which are far less ideal in this format, where there is no replacement value. But enough of my self-deprecating; I got Stephen Strasburg for $9! He was actually the first player called out in the auction, and I probably wouldn’t have gone to $11, but come on, this is “Baseball Jesus” we are talking about. It doesn’t matter he’s yet to throw a single pitch in the minor leagues, this is the best pitching prospect in the history of baseball, with a fastball he has decided to throw two-seam to produce more grounders. And his curve/slider is indefinable because no previous hurler has ever been able to throw a pitch with such velocity and break. Oh, and his four-seamer can reach 100 mph with ease, but that was before the adrenaline has kicked in at the MLB level, so 102-105 mph can’t be ruled out. In all honesty, I’ve noticed in industry leagues like this, the opposite of hype often occurs. Most don’t want to be the “sucker” who goes after the overly talked about prospect (and in reality, 99% of baseball players do need experience before realizing their potential), so for example, Matt Wieters went cheaper in AL LABR last year (which turned out to be the correct pricing) than the majority of other leagues. But we aren’t talking about mere mortals like the inferior Wieters in this case. Strasburg is going to make LeBron James look overhyped.

Podcast

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Check it out.

Catcher Rankings

Monday, March 8th, 2010

TIER 1

1. Joe Mauer – I’m less bullish on making him a top-10 pick like I was a couple of months ago, but with very little foul territory in Minnesota’s new park and his upside, don’t be shocked if he ends up worth a first round pick.

TIER 2

2. Victor Martinez – If you’re in a 2-catcher league, I like him as a third round pick.

3. Brian McCann – It wouldn’t shock if he had a better year than VMart, but McCann doesn’t have the benefits of the DH, a loaded lineup and a great hitter’s park.

TIER 3

4. Matt Wieters – Even though he disappointed last year, don’t expect much of a discount.

5. Miguel Montero – I would have easily ranked him higher, but Chris Snyder looms.

6. Jorge Posada – He will turn 39 years old this season, and his health only becomes a greater concern moving forward. Still, Posada is coming off a season in which he hit 22 homers with 81 RBI over just 383 at-bats. Is he actually a decent value pick?

7. Russell Martin – He added weight during the offseason, which hopefully improves his endurance and power (even at the expense of some steals). But even as a nice bounce back candidate, his value takes a pretty big hit now that he’s out 4-to-6 weeks.

TIER 4


8. Mike Napoli
– He’s hit 40 homers over his past 609 at-bats. Napoli showed up to spring training with a bunch of weight lost (I saw the picture!), so if he truly can improve his defense behind the plate, more playing time could equal a top-five fantasy catcher.

9. Geovany Soto – Soto also lost a bunch of weight during the offseason, and while it’s worth noting just how out-of-nowhere his big 2008 season was compared to his minor league track record, there’s also an opportunity to buy-low here. He’s a fine target.

10. Chris Iannetta
– I still believe. That said, the addition of Miguel Olivo could cut into playing time.

11. Ryan Doumit – If he somehow stayed healthy, he’d probably produce top-five type production from the catcher position. But he’s always hurt.

12. Kurt Suzuki – Solid, but he played over his head last year.

13. Bengie Molina
– Will lose some counting stats as he moves lower in the Giants’ batting order. Molina has also been worked quite hard over the past few years.

14. A.J. Pierzynski
– Boring but solid production. Not a bad fallback option at all.

TIER 5

15. Jeff Clement
16. Jarrod Saltalamacchia
17. Ramon Hernandez
18. Yadier Molina

TIER 6

19. Kelly Shoppach
20. John Baker
21. Carlos Ruiz
22. Pudge Rodriguez
23. John Buck
24. Gregg Zaun
25. Rod Barajas

RotoScoop Invitational

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

So I’m heading out to Phoenix on Friday for LABR. It will be my third year in the league, and while I finished second in 2008, last year was not very good, so I’m entering with extra motivation. Anyway, excuse my intermittent posts from now until next week – I’ll probably be able to get up some more rankings, although without any commentary (also look out for my Oscar predictions Sunday night!).

Also, I’m going to start up the RotoScoop Invitational fantasy baseball league soon, which will be entering its second year. If you want in, make a comment here, or e-mail me at seven3d@aol.com. The “Jewru” won by a half point on the final day last year, beating an “Atlanta Crackers” team that lead for the majority of the year. I finished fourth.

Anyway, I promise to pump out a bunch of articles next week, but bear with me until then, and if you want in on some RSI action, let me know. And if anyone also wants to let me know of a sleeper/target I should go after in an extremely deep NL-only 13-team LABR league, I’m all ears. Wish me luck!

Podcast

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Check it out.

Third Base Rankings

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

If you missed my first base rankings, click here.

TIER 1

1. Alex Rodriguez – He’s battled injuries the last two seasons, but remember, he’s one year removed from a .314-54-143-154-24 campaign. In that lineup and homer-friendly park, there’s definitely a case to be made for him as the No. 1 overall pick. But because he’ll turn 35 this summer, No. 3 is probably safest.

2. Evan Longoria – The battle between Longoria and David Wright appears close, but while Longoria loses in BA, he has legitimate 40-homer upside. And while he’s unlikely to steal as many bags as Wright, Longoria is a perfect 16-for-16 in SB attempts during his two years in the bigs. Longoria is just 24 years old and has hit 60 homers in barely more than 1,000 career at-bats, so the more I think about it, not only is he clearly the superior choice to Wright, I might rank him as the No. 5 player overall on my board.

3. David Wright – I fully expect Wright to bounce back in the power department this year, and part of last season’s problems can be attributed to the severe concussion he suffered in August. He should get much better lineup support, and hopefully Wright stops the extreme opposite field approach he took last season, which was especially awful considering Citi Field’s dimensions. But don’t overlook the fact his BABIP was a major-league high .400 last year, and no matter how good his line-drive rate was, that’s not sustainable (it was a full 50 points higher than his career mark), which is especially concerning since his K rate was by far a career-worst. Still, a 25/25 type campaign wouldn’t surprise.

TIER 2

4. Pablo Sandoval – I’m admittedly a Giants fan, but anyone who reads my stuff knows I’m probably the opposite of a homer (well, I might be guilty of some Tim Lincecum slurping from time to time). I mean, there isn’t a human being I despise more than Brian Sabean, and if anything, I’m overly critical of the franchise. But I almost think Sandoval is kind of underrated right now. I mean, he just posted a .943 OPS as a 22-year-old with very little major league experience. I can understand some trepidation since his approach at the plate is unorthodox (he swings at a greater percentage of pitches than any other hitter in baseball), but he’s a switch-hitter who barely has more than 700 career at-bats who’s counting stats are bound to improve with a better (albeit still not good) lineup surrounding him this year. Plus, he supposedly played with bad vision last year, which has been corrected in an awesome way.

5. Mark Reynolds – It’s tough to deny the numbers he put up last season, but realize even with a .341 BABIP (and when you account for all those homers, really his BABIP was much higher), his batting average was just .260. And his 24.3% HR/F rate was second-highest in MLB (Adrian Gonzalez was first). It’s pretty safe to project a decent amount of regression, and a .240-type BA wouldn’t surprise.

6. Ryan Zimmerman – He’s hardly in an ideal situation in Washington, but Zimmerman is still just 25 years old and posted a .969 OPS after the All-Star break last season.

7. Aramis Ramirez – He’s always an injury risk, but if you extrapolate last year’s production over a full season you get a .317 BA, 30 homers and 128 RBI.

8. Kevin Youkilis – I don’t see a huge difference between numbers 5-8 on this list, so I’d have no problem if you argue for Youkilis to be placed higher in this tier. All are pretty closely bunched together.

TIER 3

9. Adrian Beltre – Beltre is never going to repeat his 2004 season, but before last year’s injury-ruined campaign, he averaged 25 homers, 83 runs, 88 RBI and 11 steals over the previous three seasons while playing in cavernous Safeco Field. He’s typically been highly durable throughout his career, so now is the time to buy coming off such a disastrous 2009, although he’s obviously not going to be under the radar with the move to Boston. His home/road splits were fairly massive over 2007 (.745 OPS vs. .858) and 2008 (.703 vs. 862), so a move to Fenway Park could be huge, and Beltre will also be hitting in the best lineup of his career.

10. Chipper Jones – An obvious health risk, so bump him lower in NL-only formats, but Jones is just one year removed from posting a .364/.470/.574 line. And he had an 89:101 K:BB ratio last year! This isn’t football, and he’s not playing running back; Jones can remain plenty productive even at age 38.

11. Chone Figgins
– Maybe this is too low, but Figgins is a negative in two categories and now joins a team that had fewer than half the stolen base attempts as the Angels did last season. And while the totals suggest otherwise, when you factor in at-bats and health, last year was his worst on the base paths over the past five years. That trend should only get worse as he approaches his mid-30s.

12. Gordon Beckham – No one is drafting Beckham to use at third base (at least very few are), as he’ll soon be second base eligible, so let’s move along.

13. Ian Stewart – Same as above. What this ranking reflects is if any 3B listed higher were 2B eligible, I’d prefer them over Stewart. That said, a ton of upside here.

TIER 4

14. Michael Young – Safe, solid option, but realize last season was BY FAR his best since 2005 (over the previous three years, he averaged a whopping 13 home runs). And he’s 33 years old.

15. Alex Gordon – I kind of like gambling here. One of the higher regarded prospects over the past five years, Gordon should not be considered a lost cause just yet. This is the type of pick that can win your league for you.

16. Jorge Cantu – Well, at least he’s a better selection as a 3B than a 1B.

17. Troy Glaus
– I’ve already talked about Glaus plenty. Could be a cheap source for power.

18. Edwin Encarnacion – EE is one of those players who is inching quite close to being dead to me. But despite being burned in the past, I try not to hold too much of a bias, as there is admittedly still some upside here. Certainly more than anyone listed below.

19. Jhonny Peralta
– He’s just not that good. Maybe he bounces back, but you should be using him at SS either way.

TIER 5

20. Mark DeRosa
21. Brandon Wood
22. Chase Headley
23. Garrett Atkins
24. Kevin Kouzmanoff
25. Casey Blake
26. Scott Rolen

Why The Rams Should Draft Sam Bradford

Monday, March 1st, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

I understand the “take best player available” theory, I really do. It’s just that I disagree with it in St. Louis’ case this year. Now, before I continue, my argument assumes Bradford’s shoulder has been fully cleared by Dr. James Andrews and will soon be 100 percent. But if so, I really don’t see an argument the other way here. I mean, it’s simple: quarterback is the single most important position in all of sports. And it’s not even close.

Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy certainly look like sure things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. I mean, McCoy only put up 225 lbs 23 times! And the leaning opinion right now has him slightly above Suh, who had more than a third of his sacks last year come in one game. But in all seriousness, I’m not here to criticize either defensive tackle. Each look nearly certain to have bright careers in the pros. But so what? Let’s say one becomes the greatest DT in the history of the NFL – I’d still rather a top-12 current QB in the league than that. There’s a reason the franchise tag for defensive tackles right now is $7,003,000 (only tight end, safety and kickers are lower) compared to quarterbacks’ $16,405,000. I guess ideally St. Louis would be drafting third this year, so they would spend a little less and wouldn’t be worried about being criticized for “reaching,” but is that any better than making a player yet to take a snap in the league the highest paid defensive tackle in the NFL?

I actually don’t watch much college football and have no opinion of Bradford. I’m totally agnostic. However, if there’s a chance he can truly be a franchise quarterback, which clearly seems to be the case (since this is such a crapshoot, the end result is actually beside the point I’m trying to make), then the Rams’ decision is easy. After all, either defensive tackle could be a bust too, or even if they turn out to be a very solid, maybe even Pro Bowl caliber talent, that still doesn’t change the fact St. Louis will be a below average football team until the QB position is upgraded by a wide margin. Maybe that’s possible through free agency (pretty rare), but this is a team that hasn’t drafted a QB in round one since 1967 – and it shows, as there might not be a franchise with a worse outlook at the NFL’s most important position.

The Rams should draft Bradford and not even think twice about it.

First Base Rankings

Monday, March 1st, 2010

TIER 1

1. Albert Pujols – A no-brainer and the safest fantasy pick out there.

TIER 2

2. Ryan Howard – He’s averaged 49.5 homers and 143 RBI over the past four seasons. And remember, his career BA is .279, so he’s not necessarily a killer in that category.

3. Miguel Cabrera – While he has yet to have a truly monstrous campaign he’s fully capable of, remember Cabrera is still just 26 years old. And if he really did stop drinking alcohol altogether, maybe he reaches his potential in 2010. Normally I shy away from stories like that, but in this case, it may really prove to matter.

4. Prince Fielder – I’d fault no one for ranking Fielder as the No. 2 first baseman, as this tier is tightly grouped together.

5. Mark Teixeira – Again, you could reverse this tier and few would complain. If you don’t get a top-three pick this year, hope for one late.

TIER 3

6. Joey Votto – I love Votto as much as anyone, but realize he’s probably due for a bit of a regression after posting a .373 BABIP last season, and he’s not going to come cheap.

7. Kendry Morales – He’s probably less safe than Adrian Gonzalez or Justin Morneau since he’s only had one successful MLB season, but nothing in his profile suggests last year was a fluke, and at age 26, his best is probably yet to come, even if he takes a small step back in 2010. He should move higher in the batting order this season (most of his ABs were from the sixth spot in 2009) and having Bobby Abreu hitting in front of him is pretty ideal.

8. Adrian Gonzalez – Hard to find any fault in such an impressive 2009 performance, but this is far more of an indictment of his situation than his ability. Even with 40 homers, he failed to reach 100 RBI last year, and it will be awfully tough to repeat in the power department playing half his games in Petco. And with that lineup, expect his walks to continue increasing. A trade is possible, but he’s signed at an affordable price through 2011, so it’s not a guarantee.

9. Justin Morneau – Not a bad fallback option. Morneau has averaged 118 RBI over the past four years (and he missed nearly 30 games last season), although he lacks HR upside compared to the other first basemen listed above him here (he’s never reached 35 homers in a season). His OPS has dropped after the All-Star break each of the past five years (134, 9, 242, 72, 252 points), so maybe there’s further upside if Morneau somehow stays healthy over a full season and stops that trend. The new outdoor stadium in Minnesota is a wild card.

TIER 4

10. Lance Berkman – He’s averaged 36 home runs with 115 RBI over the past three years before last season, and 25 HRs and 80 RBI over 460 at-bats isn’t exactly a disaster. A non-sexy option perceived as on the downside of his career, Berkman is a pretty good target in 2010.

11. Kevin Youkilis – One of the better hitters in baseball, but Youkilis has missed an average of 19 games over the past three seasons, and he’s never appeared in 150 contests during his career. In a way, that makes him more valuable in leagues with decent replacement options – putting up elite production in fewer opportunities, but it’s also unlikely he starts exhibiting better durability now on the wrong side of 30. Of some concern is that his strikeout rate took quite a jump in 2009.

12. Derrek Lee – With a .972 OPS, Lee was one of the best hitters in baseball last season. The 35 homers were somewhat surprising, but if his wrist injuries are finally behind him, don’t necessarily chalk up the renewed power as a fluke either. With as strong of an option as Lee rated this low, it’s pretty clear it’s OK to wait on the 1B position.

13. Billy Butler – After the All-Star break last season, Butler hit 13 homers with 55 RBI while posting a .314/.385/.540 line. He’s a natural born hitter with fast improving plate discipline (18:18 K:BB ratio during September). He remains pedestrian against right-handers, but his 51 doubles last season were the second-most in all of baseball, suggesting a spike in home runs are surely in store. I really wouldn’t have much of a problem if you wanted to move him to the top of this tier.

14. Adam Dunn – Same old story, huge power that typically comes relatively cheap since he’s such a huge BA risk. Dunn’s .267 average last season was his career-high.

15. Carlos Pena – Similar to Dunn, only a bigger injury risk. It wouldn’t shock if Pena finished with the most homers in the American League someday, but with all those strikeouts, he’s going to hurt your batting average.

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16. Adam LaRoche – It’s weird he always gets off to such slow starts, but ultimately the numbers typically end up solid. The move to Chase Field should really help.

17. Chris Davis – Davis has prodigious power, and he’ll definitely come cheaper after disappointing last season. There’s 40-homer potential here, but Justin Smoak looms large in the minors, and Davis’ 150:24 K:BB ratio in fewer than 400 at-bats last season is positively staggering.

18. Todd Helton – Twenty homers is now his ceiling, but few players likely to bat .330 will come so cheap. Still, he remains an injury-risk, and Jason Giambi should spell him more than any other backup has during any point in Helton’s career.

19. Paul Konerko – He’s clearly in decline, but 25 homers and 85 RBI can still be expected. Partially because he’s so slow, Konerko has averaged just 68 runs scored over the past three seasons (and has never reached 100 during his 14-year career).

20. James Loney – Loney supposedly put on some muscle this offseason and anticipates hitting more homers as a result, but until it happens, he remains a typically overrated fantasy commodity.

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21. Nick Johnson – If he’s placed second in the Yankees’ lineup, with that OBP, only health could prevent 125 runs scored. And as a lefty, the stadium should really boost his modest power numbers. Playing exclusively as DH should help prevent injuries as well.

22. Jorge Cantu – Maybe this is too low, as I let the fact Cantu isn’t a very good real life player cloud my judgment.

23. Troy Glaus – He’s not eligible here yet, and maybe it doesn’t make sense ranking him as a 1B since he’d have more value as a 3B (and I ignored others who have dual eligibility too), but Glaus is playing first base for the Braves this season. There might not be a cheaper source of 35-homer potential.

24. Garrett Jones – He was unbelievably good for the Pirates last season, but I’d remain cautious. His minor league track record suggests a major correction is inevitable.

25. Aubrey Huff – As a Giants fan, I’m obviously not overly thrilled with the acquisition, but Huff did post a .912 OPS just two years ago. And he’s moving to the easier league and is slated to hit cleanup, so maybe he becomes worthy in fantasy leagues.